One person's government shutdown is another person's opportunity for ... knitting lessons?
Yep. While the U.S. Congress has wrapped itself tightly in chains, federal employees have an opportunity to create something useful out of yarn or just sit around and eat, drink and be temporarily unemployed.
The offers are not strictly charitable. With tens of thousands of federal employees around, the government shutdown will cost the region $200 million a day by one estimate, so businesses are doing what they can to attract customers.
Businesses in the shadow of the Capitol dome are offering a slew of freebies to furloughed federal employees, including the knitting lessons, movies, cupcakes and pig sandwiches at — where else? — Pork Barrel BBQ.
(Note to members of Congress: You are officially and specifically excluded from this particular pork barrel, not that you've done anything to work up an appetite.)
Some of the freebies being offered are as inexpensive as a cup of coffee, now being offered to federal workers in several spots in Northern Virginia and elsewhere in the Washington, DC metro area.
In Arlington, shutdown specials include:
- Z-Burger in Virginia Square will give a free burger to furloughed federal government and DC government employees with an ID for the duration of the shutdown, according to WJLA. The special is good from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Note: This offer is no longer valid, according to the New York Times.
- Chef Jose Andres tweeted that he is offering a free sandwich at Jaleo in Crystal City to people who have been furloughed, between 3 to 5 p.m "everyday until it's over." Government ID required.
- For everyone: Ireland's Four Courts over in Courthouse is extending its food and drink specials from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday the government is shut down.
The knitting lessons? Usually $75 but now offered free at Fibre Space in Old Town Alexandria from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. any workday the government is closed.
At the other end of the specials spectrum, furloughed federal workers can get their booze on.
Kangaroo Boxing Club, a bar and restaurant in Northwest DC, is offering a free Screwdriver to any federal employee who suddenly has time on their hands.
And why not? As its Facebook page points out, "Because if the government is screwing you..."
Nearby at Beltway Plaza Mall in Greenbelt, furloughed workers are being offered free lunch and a free movie through the end of the month. Just bring your furlough notice.
Then there is the truly creative cost-free stuff, like at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. It is transforming into "Shutdown Central" for the duration of the government's ineptitude. It will offer free food, coffee and WiFi to anyone who wants it. They're planning a West Wing marathon and, fittingly enough, games of "Political Ping Pong."
And one more thing. Washington may be closed, but Washington's home is not.
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, a private group, owns George Washington's estate in Fairfax County, Va. So furloughed workers with time on their hands—and maybe some nostalgia for the president who warned against partisan government—can still take a trip to Washington's estate on the banks of the Potomac River.
This article was originally published Oct. 1.